St John’s Market 1822 – 1964

St John’s Market, and its host St John’s Shopping Centre, is never far from the Liverpool news pages, and this is very much the case today. Having not yet re-opened since the Covid-19 pandemic, traders are voicing real concerns about their, and the market’s future.

Frustrated St John’s Market traders take their fight with council to the streets

The Twitter account is leading a feisty campaign, and in addition to the Liverpool Echo coverage above, Scottie Press have also run a story:

St John’s Market Traders Demand Answers from Liverpool Council

Picture by Scottie Press

Update: thankfully the market has now re-opened, make sure you visit soon!

Always liable to evoke strong opinions, and often calls for the wrecking ball to call again, now seemed as good a time as any to finally getting around to adding the original St John’s Market to my series of Liverpool Histories.

As normal, my research has relied heavily upon the great resource that is provided by British Newspaper Archive (I can’t recommend a subscription too highly), but unfortunately on this occasion has not, as yet, been supplemented by a visit to Liverpool Central Library Archives. The Covid-19 restrictions has made this impractical, but I have included in the PDF a list of the available archive material that I will endeavour to explore at some date in the future.

It has been a fascinating history to research thus far, and certainly for me, has revealed some previously unknown facts about the market and its changing fortunes.

It would again be great to add any personal memories and/or pictures to the blog, so please do get in touch.

Here is the LINK to the PDF file, which I will update as an ongoing project,  I hope you enjoy it.

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To Fill, or Not to Fill………

The history of Liverpool is inextricably intertwined with that of its docks, and you might indeed ask would Liverpool actually exist without them? The majority have been constructed on man-made land extending the city’s shoreline further into the River Mersey. Their evolution, their impact here and across the globe, their rise and fall, and their continuous adaptation are unquestionable. It could be argued that this continuous adaptation, often controversial, is why the ‘docks’ have continued to enhance and contribute to the city for over 200 years.

Herman Melville would write of Liverpool Docks in 1856:

“…….in Liverpool I beheld long China walls of masonry; vast piers of stone; and a succession of granite-rimmed docks, completely enclosed. The extent and solidity of these structures seemed equal to what I had read of the old pyramids of Egypt. In magnitude, cost and durability the docks of Liverpool surpass all others in the world… for miles you may walk along that riverside, passing dock after dock, like a chain of immense fortresses.”

By the early 19th century some 40% of the world’s trade was passing through Liverpool’s Docks, and the city’s fame was world-wide. Of course, the nature of both world trade and shipping would change, and the docks themselves had to change accordingly. Dock construction evolved, dock size, cargo handling, logistics all changed. Though the pace of change has varied, it has always been there, and the city has had to adapt accordingly. Steam-ships, migration, and passenger liners added ongoing stimulus. At times this would increasingly demand more docks, more quay space, and more warehousing etc. At others it has meant demand for all things dock related has considerably lessened.

Of all the changes in the dock estate, infilling has perhaps been the most controversial. The first however was as far back as 1826 when it was deemed the ‘Old’ or ‘Steers Dock’ had reached the end of its usefulness, and that the space could be better utilised. This first instance of infilling led to a dispute between the Corporation and the Dock Trustees. Even once closed there were continuing calls for it to be re-opened. Ultimately of course the land was used for the magnificent 5th Customs House, the docks then expanding North and South.

The infilling of docks in more modern times has continued to be controversial, but as in other ports, the demand for more productive use of space has won the day. Stanley Dock was part infilled in 1897 for the massive and still standing Tobacco Warehouse, and back in 1900 the closure and infilling of Georges Dock was a key event in shaping the Liverpool we know today.

It can of course be argued that the in-filling of water space has brought the city many benefits, and indeed we have as a result built:

The Three Graces and the Pier Head.        Museum of Liverpool.
Housing and apartments.                             Industrial/Commercial premises.
Leisure facilities.                                             Hotel and conference facilities.

Re-use of docks such as Queens, Coburg, and Brunswick have also brought about positive results.

To all intents and purposes some say once they are gone, they are gone, but we should acknowledge that many of the infilled docks remain as archaeological resources, surviving in varying degrees of completeness below ground.

The debate about infilling is once again paramount in view of two key proposals: firstly the new Everton F.C. Stadium and the filling of Bramley Moore Dock, and secondly Romal Capital’s proposals for the partial infill of West Waterloo Dock for more apartments blocks as part of the much wider ‘Liverpool Waters’ scheme. These proposals have equally raised the contentious issue of World Heritage Status and the over-hanging threat that this will be withdrawn by UNESCO

For me personally it is of course sad to see historic docks disappear, but each and every instance needs to be assessed on its individual circumstances. In the big scheme of things have we already filled-in too many of our docks? I’m not sure. Should we be considering the infilling of more docks? I again suggest we have to seriously consider the pros and cons of each situation from as neutral a perspective as possible. In making such decisions though I feel it is important that full account is taken of the historical context and the decisions taken previously. For instance, I am sure many would be surprised by how many docks have actually previously been infilled.

The waterfront is now a very different place, and is perhaps contributing to the city’s culture and economy in a much wider variety of ways than ever before. Thus, we have diverse factors seeking to utilise the limited land and water resources available – the debate will continue, let it at least be informed.

The following graphics and table can be viewed via the PDF

The dock estate in 1889: Hornby to Herculaneum, and the changes since:

Purple boxes indicate new water areas/docks since 1899, excluding the extensive Gladstone (1924-27), and Seaforth (1972).

Red boxes indicate docks filled in since 1826

North Docks – click for larger version

South Docks – click for larger version

You can view a zoomable map of the Docks in 1889 here

Dock Opened Closed/Infilled Reason Current Status
Hornby 1884 /1994 Coal plant Coal processing
Alexandra No.1 1881 Scrap processing yard
Langton Branch 1881 /pre1986 Container storage-SeaTruck
Langton Graving x 2 1881 /pre1986 Container storage-SeaTruck
North Carriers 1861 /post1986 Cargill Bulk Foods
Brocklebank Graving 1861 /pre1986 Cargill Bulk Foods
Huskisson Branch No.2 1860? 1941/1950’s Blitz damage 1941 Henty Oil
Sandon 1851 1980’s/1989 Water treatment works
Wellington 1851 Late 1970’s/2012 Water treatment works
Stanley 1848 Partly 1897 Tobacco Warehouse Tobacco Warehouse
Clarence 1830 1928/1929 Clarence Power Station Vacant site
Clarence Half-tide 1830 1928/1929 Clarence Power Station Leeds Liverpool Canal Link
Trafalgar 1836 1972  B&I terminal Warehousing
Victoria 1836 1972  B&I terminal Quay Central Apartments
Prince Graving/Branch 1874/1938 c1990 Crowne Plaza Hotel
Seacombe Ferry Basin/Slip 1821 1871-74 Floating Roadway St Nicholas Place
Georges Dock Basin 1771 1871-74 Floating Roadway Pier Head
Georges Ferry Basin c1811 Pre-1895 Mersey Ferries Terminal
Georges 1771 1900 Three Graces, Pier Head
Chester 1795 1929 Pier Head
Manchester 1785/1825 1929 Museum of Liverpool
Old/Steers Dock 1715 1826 Customs House L1/Steers Way/Hilton Hotel
Kings 1788/1898 1972/1986 M&S Arena/Liverpool Exhibition Centre
Queens Branch No.2 1903 1972/1986 MSCP/parking
River Craft Dock (Trafford Dock) 1843 c1899 absorbed into Queens Branch No.1 c1899
Brunswick Half-tide 1832 1972/1986-94 Boat-yard
Union 1889 1898/ Absorbed into Brunswick
Toxteth 1841-88 1972/1986-94 Brunswick Business Park
Harrington 1882 1972/1986-94 Brunswick Business park
Herculaneum 1866 1972/1984 Garden Festival Car showrooms/gym
Herculaneum Graving x 3 1866 1972/1984 Garden Festival City Quay

If you spot any factual errors in the above, or have additional info, do get in touch.

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Waterloo Dock

Waterloo Dock Liverpool – Ever-changing and serving the city in different ways since 1834

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Newspaper cuttings sourced via

There is of course currently a new planning proposal as part of Liverpool Waters and the Central Docks, which includes the West Waterloo Dock:

‘Proposal: To erect residential development comprising 538 units (Use Class C3) and ground floor commercial space (Use Classes A1, A3 or A4) in four blocks, 10 storeys in height, with associated partial dock infill of West Waterloo Dock, access, parking, servicing, soft and hard landscaping and public open space including a floating timber jetty and dockside walkway (revised proposals)’

You can read the full Planning Application here  which includes a Heritage Impact Assessment

Construction of the new Isle of Man Ferry Terminal, and the new approach road, is currently under construction, and is due to open in 2021. This will occupy part of the former West quay and the former River Entrance

Further Reading/Sources:

Liverpool Observatory:

Liverpool at the forefront of dock technology: Waterloo, Victoria and Trafalgar Docks:

Britain from Above:

Streets of Liverpool:

Liverpool Canal Link, March 2009 – 4. West Waterloo Dock and Trafalgar Dock:

The Liverpool Docks Extension to the Leeds and Liverpool Canal:

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Wellington Rooms – Updated

Wellington Rooms – Mount Pleasant: 1815-16

367 WTN/8 – 1894

This is another of Liverpool’s empty buildings that creates much discussion and debate, and one that holds many memories for many people. How fantastic would it be to see this gem alive once again with the sounds of laughter and music, of course with access to the general public! We have waited too long and have seen far too many false dawns.

Efforts to save the building have been stepped up in recent years with an open-day/consultation hosted by the Merseyside Building Preservation Trust (MBPT) held in the building on 21st March 2018, and lobbying by @LHUIrishSociety  to see the much loved ‘Irish Centre’ reborn. This followed work done earlier in 2018 by specialists Quadriga to carry out urgent repairs and make the building water-tight. Sadly since then, perhaps predictably, we have read very little and once again people are asking about how the building is to be saved.

You can read the ‘Strategy of Liverpool City Council for the reactivation and reuse of Wellington Rooms’  here

Here is a link to a downloadable PDF of this blog with additional images etc….and no adverts!

Since I first wrote a blog about the Wellington Rooms in 2014 I have researched further and so thought an updated version was warranted. As ever greatly indebted to the Archives at Liverpool Central Library and in this instance archives referenced 367 WTN. We are very fortunate that so many records of the Wellington Rooms/Embassy Rooms survive. Newspaper cuttings are sourced via the excellent

Wellington Reading Rooms - opened 1816

The Grade II* Wellington Rooms is a neo-classical building designed by Edmund Aikin, erected by subscription, and located on Mount Pleasant. It was built 1815 – 16 and the first function was the Ladies Charity Ball held on 31st Dec 1816.


The seeds of the Wellington Rooms were sown in 1814 when at a meeting of gentlemen, held on 15th August 1814 at the Kings Arms, in Liverpool, it was resolved to form a club, to be called The Wellington Club, for the purpose of having Balls and other Entertainments.

367 WTN/6

The Kings Arms was in Water Street and itself has quite a history. Built c1690 by William Clayton, and later home of Thomas Tarleton, it became the Kings Arms in 1786, and then in 1822 the Parish Offices.

As you would expect many of the influential figures of the day were involved in the establishment of the Wellington Club and a committee was set up to oversee things:

The plot of land for the club was assigned to the trustees on 5th August 1815 with Mayor Jonas Bold a noted slave merchant, sugar trader and banker, one of those named:

The Wellington Club became a key part of the Liverpool social scene in the 19th Century as a venue for dancing, drama, and other entertainment.

A key annual event that took place here was the ‘Steeplechase Ball’ when it is said the grand national winner would be paraded around the ballroom with flannelled hooves! ….not sure on this one 🙂

Pevsner’s guide tells us that the central projecting colonade was originally open but infilled in the 1820s as it gave insufficient shelter. Porches on the west for sedan chairs, and on the east for carriages have also been enclosed (Pevsner Architectural Guides – Liverpool) 

The Wellington Club, or ‘The Rooms’ was wound up in 1923 after failing to regain its popularity post-WWI. We have a fascinating account, written by Sir William Forwood and published in the Liverpool Echo on 20th January 1923. This piece not only gives a snapshot of the elitist goings on at ‘The Rooms’ but also changing Liverpool life for those that frequented it:

In 1923 the building became known as The Embassy Rooms with the aim of ‘maintaining the character of those Rooms as a first class place of assembly’. 

The Embassy Rooms seem to have remained popular until 1930 when we see an unsuccessful effort to sell the club: (click images for larger versions)

367 WTN 8/4

Despite not selling, the club did continue to operate and in 1932 (after temporary closure) became ‘The New Embassy Club’ opening on the 10th September:

I wonder if there are any people out there remember attending the Rooms in the next reincarnation as the Rodney Youth Centre? It opened on 23rd July 1940 and would have been a great boon to local youngsters. The club moved to Mulberry St in 1962:

Most current memories will of course relate back to the buildings days as the Irish Centre from 1965-97: please feel free to share any memories you have.

Time-line 1923 – present

  • 23rd January 1923 – 1930: Embassy Rooms, then sold
  • 1940 – 52: Rodney Youth Centre (later Mulberry St)
  • 1956 – 62: Used by Sisters of Notre Dame for educational purposes
  • 1965 – 97: Liverpool Irish Centre, 1st February 1965 including Kennedy’s Bar
  • 1997 – Long-running but ultimately unsuccessful efforts to save the Irish Centre
  • 2000 – Developer took over the 99-year lease
  • 2002 – features as one of the original buildings in the Liverpool Echo ‘Stop the Rot’ campaign
  • A proposed conversion to a 48 bedroom hotel was rejected by Liverpool City Council on 21 May 2007.
  • In 2011 opened its doors as part of Heritage Open Month, which led to formation of the ‘Friends of 127’. This project appears to have sadly fallen by the wayside.
  • Heritage Works has undertaken two feasibility/options appraisal studies for the Wellington Rooms, which have explored new uses that can be contained within the existing building and with minimum intervention into the historic fabric. The first explored the viability of Dance Liverpool’s dance centre proposal. The second considered office, function room, restaurant and University uses.
  • 2015 – another scheme announced – University of Liverpool, and John Moores University
  • 2018 – Specialist Quadriga carry out urgent repair works
  • 2018 – new proposals/consultation

Liverpool City Council owns the freehold of the site and also has statutory responsibilities for the listed building.

1997: Liverpool Echo


Further Reading:

Liverpool Records Office Ref. 367 WTN covering dates 1840 – 1933

Heritage Works

‘Another Irish Ruin’ – Gerry Gordon

Video taken in 2011 during Heritage Open Month showking the interior of the building 

As the building looked during works in Feb 2018 – James O’Hanlon:


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Clayton House – Little House in the Square

‘Little house in the square’

Following the time-lines of buildings or sites is often fascinating, and gives you a much greater appreciation of the surroundings we now live in. The ‘little house in the square’ certainly falls into this category, and most certainly draws you into the much wider influence and history of its surroundings. Clayton Square has been an important spot in Liverpool since the mid eighteenth century when laid out by Sarah Clayton c1745-50, including as a meeting place for large public and political gatherings. The Square was named after Sarah’s father, tobacco and sugar merchant  William Clayton, a member of an influential old Liverpool family who represented the town in eight parliaments between the years 1698-1714, and who also served as Mayor in 1689. He died on 7th July 1715 at Chester, being buried four days later at St. Nicholas’, Liverpool.

By 1769 the square still only contained four houses, and Gores Directory lists: Sarah Clayton; Capt. Henry Parry; George Venable, Merchant; and Capt. Robert Wilson. Since that time, it appears the square has been forever changing, and has always been a key feature of the city.

This piece intentionally only focuses upon one building but inevitably the researching of it pulls you into many different facets of Liverpool life – if you read it through try not to get distracted! Link to PDF

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‘Owen Owen a Liverpool History: London Road-to-Clayton Square’

Owen Owen

Pleased to say I have now completed my latest ‘Liverpool history’ which I hope you enjoy,

and might be able to add to: Link

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You can find my other ‘Liverpool histories’ here

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New research………

The latest piece of research is now coming along nicely. And it is again about something of a Liverpool institution………..Owen Owen, Clayton Square. As ever the research is both fascinating and revealing as I learn more about not only the store but also our great city.

From early beginnings on London Road in 1868 until the sad and final day of trading in Clayton Square in 1993 the store touched many peoples lives, both as employees and customers. This is were you come in I would love to add some personal anecdotes to the research, so if you shopped at Owen Owen, perhaps travelling from North Wales, or worked at the store I would love to hear from you. If you can why not drop me a line via the contact page, or on Twitter @Liverpool1207

I look forward to hearing from you, and completing the research. Cheers.

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Dates and Events that have Shaped Liverpool

On a whim I’d thought I would try and come up with twenty key dates/events that have had a significant role in shaping how this great city of Liverpool has evolved. Now its an impossible task, and the parameters you could apply are endless. I have tended to go for events that in turn led to subsequent developments. I have not for instance included key external factors/events such as global recessions, or the impact of specific government policies on the city.

What is undeniable when looking to compile such a list, is what a great city of ‘firsts’ we are, and many of these could have been included for their impact across the globe.

Anyhow it was a good excuse to look back across the history of the city and refresh my knowledge of some key events. Why not have a go at compiling and sharing your own list, it would be interesting to see the perspective of others.

  1. – 28th Aug 1207 – Granting of the first Charter by King John
  2. – 1647 – Liverpool becomes a free port not tied to Chester
  3. – 1648 – First recorded shipment of tobacco from America on the ‘Friendship’.
  4. – 1667 – First imports of sugar
  5. – 3rd Oct 1699 – ‘The Liverpool Merchant’ first recorded slave ship leaves port
  6. – 31st Aug 1715 – Steers Old Dock opens
  7. – 1774 – Leeds-Liverpool Canal opens to Gathurst (connected to Wigan via Douglas Navigation)
  8. – 1784, January – The first American cotton was unloaded in Liverpool
  9. – 21st July 1813 – East India Company Act
  10. – 15th Sept 1830 – Opening of the Liverpool-Manchester Railway
  11. – 4th July 1840 – First Cunard ship sails to the US
  12. – 1847 – Irish Famine influx
  13. – 1869 – St. Martins Cottages, Vauxhall built – Europe’s first municipal housing
  14. – 12th March 1892 – Everton F.C. – Liverpool F.C. split
  15. – 3rd may 1941 – The May Blitz begins
  16. – 6th July 1957 – Lennon-McCartney first meet
  17. – 3rd July 1981 – Toxteth Riots
  18. – 3rd July 1993 – Awarded EU Objective One Funding
  19. – 4th June 2003 – Awarded Capital of Culture for 2008
  20. – 29th May 2008 Liverpool One opens
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Bombers Over Liverpool

Between May 15th and June 4th 1945 the Liverpool Daily Post published a series of pictures under the title of ‘Bombers Over Liverpool’. The pictures were of well-known city centre buildings showing how they were before and after being bombed. The pictures were also accompanied by a short history of each building.

It is almost impossible to imagine walking into town today, and then visiting a week later to see it a scene of complete devastation with many the of streets impassable and many of the buildings you frequently visited obliterated. This however was exactly the scenario many Liverpudlians encountered in May 1941 before and after Hitler’s bombers were intent on inflicting unknown damage upon the city.

Four years later the wounds and losses of many would still have been raw, but the newspapers were now able to re-tell the stories of those never forgotten days. Seeing the pictures all together today, and walking the same streets, it does (with not a little imagination) enable you to better appreciate not only the devastation caused by the bombing but also the immense efforts required to help the city then recover.

All images © Trinity Mirror.  Accessed via British Newspaper Archive

The pictures were numbered 1 -to- 15 but there does not appear to have been a number 9.

7th June 1945

All above images © Trinity Mirror.  Accessed via British Newspaper Archive


The full story of The Blitz and its devastating impact upon Liverpool has been well documented by many sources and here are just a few excellent web links you might want to have a look at:

Liverpool And Merseyside Remembered:

A superb resource for those interested in the topic, including lots of amazing pictures. Please do take a look.

Liverpool Blitz 70:

Celebrating the Spirit of Liverpool | 70th Anniversary of the May Blitz 30th April to 2nd May 2011

About: Liverpool Blitz 70! was a whole city event which took place from Saturday 30th April to Monday 2nd May to mark the 70th anniversary of the May Blitz of 1941.

Whilst giving proper respect to those who lost their lives during the bomb raids of the Second World War, the event was intended to be a celebration of the spirit of the Blitz and indeed, the spirit of Liverpool!

Blitz Chronology:

From the Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service

May Blitz – The Seven Days that Rocked Liverpool:

A fascinating video from the BBC

Liverpool 1941:

A video that brings home the true impact of May 1941:

‘Record of bomb damage suffered by the city of Liverpool after the blitz of May 1941. After opening shots of the Pier Head there are scenes of ruined streets and damaged buildings throughout the city including Custom House, St Nicholas and St Luke’s churches, the Corn Exchange, Lewis’s department store and the docks’

The Merseyside Blitz: acts of bravery –

During World War 2, Merseyside was one of the most heavily bombed British conurbations outside of London.

The location of the port of Liverpool made it a lifeline for essential imports of fuel, food and materials, as well as naval repairs, and the city was also a strategic hub for the coordination of the Battle of the Atlantic. This also made it a prime target for the Luftwaffe.

Merseyside had suffered sustained bombings since August 1940, with the most severe incident for loss of life at Durning Road, Edge Hill, in November, when 166 people were killed after a college collapsed on to a shelter in which they were hiding, with others severely injured. Other heavy raids tore through the city, with just three days in December seeing the death of 365 people (the ‘Christmas Blitz’).

The first week in May 1941 saw seven nights of sustained bombing that destroyed and set ablaze areas of the city of Liverpool and the surrounding area, killing 1,746 civilians and injuring 1,154 others. After May, the raids became less intense, but continued until January 1942. By its end, some 3,899 people had been killed.

The many individual acts of bravery and courage at this time are stories that deserve to be told…..

Spirit of The Blitz:

From Liverpool Museums. This in turn offers another host of interesting links:

Imperial War Museum:

A panoramic view of the city of Liverpool, showing bomb damage received after an air raid. The Liver Building can be clearly seen just to the right of centre, and the River Mersey is just visible to the left of the photograph.

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Liverpool Parish Church, Our Lady & St Nicholas

Liverpool Parish Church, Our Lady & St Nicholas

We quite often hear of places being described as ‘an oasis’ within an otherwise hectic environment, and if ever this phrase was ever justified then the gardens of St Nicholas in Liverpool fit the bill. That is not to say that it is short of visitors, and it is certainly not to say its history is anything but rich, fascinating, and frequently controversial.

From being a vantage point to see the arrival of Royals and grand ships, a parade of the towns well-to-do, a final resting place for rich and poor, a gathering point for ‘drunks and rogues’, to a place associated with slaver captains, St Nicholas gardens, or perhaps more accurately churchyard, has had it all.

There has been an abundance written about St Nicks and I do not endeavour to attempt a comprehensive history of this place, but instead offer an illustrated time-line that will transport you through time, and many links for your continued exploration.

Apologies for any errors, please let me know if you spot any.

Link to PDF

‘Homeless Jesus’ St Nicks April 2019

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